What do locally grown carrots and on-the-job training for graduating high school students have in common?
They’re both part of an initiative sponsored by Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque to grow Main Street jobs and spur business development in underinvested neighborhoods through hiring and buying locally.
Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque was launched in 2017 as a partnership among local “anchor” institutions, including The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, Albuquerque Public Schools, Central New Mexico Community College, First Choice Community Healthcare, the City of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Community Foundation.
“There are a lot of different initiatives going on with our anchor partners,” said Richard Larson, MD, PhD, executive vice chancellor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. “We have had some significant wins.”
Healthy Neighborhoods Albuquerque encourages its anchor institutions to buy from local growers, manufacturers and suppliers to help reinvest in Albuquerque’s economy, Larson said.
For example, the UNM Hospitals cafeteria purchases 15 to 20 pounds of carrots each week from a local agricultural cooperative. APS last year bought $314,000 worth of local produce and $2.7 million from local food suppliers, Larson said.
The Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative has also joined with representatives of the city, Bernalillo County and local non-profits to develop a Food System Charter – a strategic plan to promote greater use of locally grown foods.
“The Charter is to provide guidance for our anchor collaborative to improve health and strengthen the local food economy,” Larson said. “We have also been working on a general purchasing initiative that will assist with identifying and implementing individual anchor local procurement and/or food system projects.”
In addition to the purchasing initiative, the job-training program aims to prepare applicants for entry-level jobs at the University of New Mexico Hospitals, Presbyterian Healthcare and Albuquerque Ambulance Service, which could eventually lead to successful careers, said Ryan Cangiolosi, director of Economic Development at the University of New Mexico Health Science Center.
In May, seven recent high school graduates went through a job-training “boot camp,” Cangiolosi said. Four were hired by UNM Hospitals – one in a permanent position in the charge entry department and three in internships in food service and patient transport.
Presbyterian placed three graduates, one as a food service aide and two as logistics techs for Albuquerque Ambulance Service.
The job-training program hopes to enroll more than 20 students in the 2020 boot camp, Cangiolosi added.
Heathy Neighborhoods Albuquerque is excited about the future. The board and key staff are preparing to enter into a strategic planning process to develop a plan for the future and identify other initiatives to impact the community.